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Posted Nov 2, 2013, 12:34 pm
United Soccer Leagues has terminated its franchise agreement with BDR Sports, LLC, the company that owns and operates Phoenix FC. The league says the team will continue under new owners.
The news was first reported Friday night by Phoenix-based sports reporter Odeen Domingo. His story generated internet chatter about the team itself shutting down, which prompted a response Saturday morning from USL:
Earlier this week, the ownership rights for USL PRO in Phoenix held by BDR Sports were formally terminated due to the entity’s failure to meet its franchise obligations. However, contrary to published reports, Phoenix FC Wolves will continue to participate in USL PRO in 2014 under new ownership. A public announcement of the ownership group and other details related to the team will be made later this month.
An email to USL asking if new ownership is already in place went unanswered at press time and their office is closed for the weekend. Several calls to sources in the Phoenix area soccer community found no one that knew anything about who may be in this new ownership group.
The team, at least the public face of it, had a great start. They won their first home game on March 30 in front of 4,198 fans. The trouble is they had little structure in place for marketing to keep those fans coming or sponsorships to make money off of those early crowds.
The team also found itself saddled with a stadium deal with Arizona State University that cost them more than $25,000 a week, where most teams in the league pay between $2,500 and $3,000 per game for their stadium. As attendance fell, due to a combination of neglect, ticket prices and poor results on the field, it became harder and harder to remain financially viable.
No one affiliated with the team would talk to TucsonSentinel.com on the record, but blame is being cast in the direction of former club president Tim Thomas and his inattentive style. He was ousted by the board in the spring, and the remaining ownership group tried to scale things back just to survive the season.
Unfortunately, that scaling back included ditching plans for a youth academy and PDL affiliate, both of which would have contributed to the long-term viability of the team. It also meant the team moved to Reach 11, a sports complex in northern Phoenix. While the venue wasn’t their biggest problem, it was hard to create a professional environment when players were changing in improvised locker rooms in portable storage units in the parking lot.
The team finished the season with a match in front of just north of 500 fans who were treated to a 10-man squad beaten in the final minute of the game by an underperforming Rochester Rhinos. Given everything, it seemed to be an appropriate end to the season.
We’ll find out in a few weeks if it was the end of the team.